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Boycott Calls Against Israel
Gray Boycott and Its Problematique: How to Prove a Motive?


Editorial Note 

The current BDS drive has spurred a large body of writing ranging from books to blogs.  Most of the discourse involves the various BDS resolutions and ways in which pro-Israeli advocates should respond to it.


Much less attention has been paid to the so-called gray boycott (also known as silent boycott), namely personal initiatives of scholars who take it upon themselves to boycott their Israeli counterparts, either by rejecting submission to journals and presses, declining invitations to participate in conferences held in Israel, or refusing to invite said scholars to panels organized by professional associations in the West. 


Still, gray boycott has concerned Israeli academic authorities.  In January 2014, in an interview for Maariv, Professor Rivka Carmi noted that "large part of these boycotts are not formal. They work behind the scenes and reflect, in part, on non-acceptance of post-doctoral positions in Israel, rejection of co-authored articles and awards.There is no formal boycott but a growing understanding among academic staff in Israel, that there is a kind of silent boycott".

Professors Asher Cohen and Aharon Shai, the rectors of Hebrew University and Tel Aviv University respectively, wrote to the faculty stating "there is evidence of hidden boycott, which is more difficult to locate, but can be dangerous. Recently, with the increase in activities calling for boycott of Israel (BDS), it is feared that there is a growing phenomenon of academic boycott." Both asked faculty to report on instances of "discrimination that can result in rejection of articles on ground of improper considerations; cancellation of invitation to attend or speak at conferences; refusal to attend conferences held in Israel, or sponsored by Israeli institutions on ground that it is an Israeli event, and so on."


Such worries are not misplaced. Boycotting Israeli academics, notably in the social sciences, is not new.  In one incident, Gideon Kressel, a professor at Ben Gurion University, was asked to leave an anthropological conference in 1984 after a group French based Arab academics opposed his presence.  As the letter below shows, Ernest Gellner, arguably, one of the leading social scientists of the twentieth century, wrote to protest the exclusion: “My own feeling is that arbitrary exclusion of a bona fide scholar simply on the ground of his citizenship set a precedent which one cannot and ought not condone.“


As well known, things got much worse since 1984, making Gellner’s sentiment sound quaint.   Over the years, IAM documented numerous cases of private boycott initiatives by a variety of scholars in a variety of fields, a vast majority to them in the social sciences.  

The new variety of boycott is not just widespread but more challenging.  A perusal of the BDS discourse indicates that, along with the open resolutions and petitions, scholars are being “empowered” to launch their own covert initiatives.  Given the wide discretion built into academic freedom, such covert actions may be hard to fight.


"Academic Boycott of Israel Undercover"

A letter obtained by Channel 2 Online presents the greatest fear of institutions of higher education, the expansion of international academic boycott of Israel. Rector of Tel Aviv University wrote to faculty members that there is evidence to hidden boycottit which is difficult to locate - and communicated the request of the Committee of University Heads to report immediately on any exceptional event

Matan Hetzroni, channel 2 online reporter | News 2 | Posted 12/01/15 15:46

Possibility of expanding international academic boycott of Israel raises concerns in the country's universities. Concern for academic boycott which is "invisible", brought a request from the Committee of University Heads to professors and researchers - to report any unusual incident immediately.

In a letter obtained by Channel 2 Online and sent yesterday by Tel Aviv University Rector Prof. Aron Shai to faculty members, he details the growing phenomenon and passes the request of the Committee of University Heads.

"It may  be that the boycott faded to a certain extent," writes Prof. Shai but hesitates: "There is however evidence of the phenomenon of boycott hidden from the eye, more difficult to find, it may harm the country. It seems that an important step in preparations against the boycott is to be familiar with its dimensions and to map it".

"The Committee of University Heads requests that faculty members who know a case of discrimination on improper grounds such as rejection of academic articles for reasons that are not academic, dis-invitation or cancellation of an invitation to attend a conference or lecture, refusal to participate in a conference held under the auspice of Israel or Israeli institution, etc., to report to Prof. Eshel Ben-Jacob he undertook to coordinate this issue,"wrote the Rector of Tel Aviv University.

At the beginning of his letter he notes that an academic boycott of Israel is not off the agenda, and details of initiatives in the last decade that led to a boycott of Israeli institutions and researchers, as the University and College Union of England.

Only recently it was reported that the Middle Eastern Studies Association (MESA) members approved academic boycott of Israel. This case joined other decisions, including an initiative of 5,000 professors and lecturers of the Association of Professors of American Studies that imposed a boycott on Israel at the end of 2013, and the Irish National Teachers Association responded to the request of the Palestinian Authority and approved to take such a step.


"חרם אקדמי סמוי על ישראל"

מכתב שהגיע לידי חדשות 2 מציג את החשש הגדול במוסדות ההשכלה הגבוהה מהרחבת החרם האקדמי הבינלאומי על ישראל. רקטור אוניברסיטת ת"א כתב לחברי הסגל כי יש עדויות לחרם סמוי שקשה לאתרו – והעביר להם את בקשת ועד ראשי האוניברסיטאות לדווח מידית על כל אירוע חריג

האפשרות של הרחבת החרם האקדמי הבינלאומי על ישראל מעוררת דאגה רבה בקרב האוניברסיטאות בארץ. החשש מחרם אקדמי "סמוי מן העין" הביא לבקשה מצד ועד ראשי האוניברסיטאות מהמרצים והחוקרים - לדווח על כל אירוע חריג באופן מיידי.

במכתב שהגיע לידי חדשות 2 Online ונשלח אתמול על ידי רקטור אוניברסיטת תל אביב פרופ' אהרן שי לחברי סגל האוניברסיטה, הוא מפרט על התופעה המתרחבת ומעביר את בקשת ועד ראשי האוניברסיטאות.

"יתכן והחרם הועם במידה מסוימת", כותב פרופ' שי אך מסייג: "יש עם זאת עדויות לתופעה של חרם סמוי מן העין, שקשה יותר לאתרו. ואולם, הוא עלול לפגוע במדינה. נראה כי צעד חשוב בהיערכות נגד החרם הוא היכרות עם ממדיו ומיפויו".

"פורום ועד ראשי האוניברסיטאות מבקש מחברי הסגל האקדמי היודעים, מידיעה אישית, על מקרה של אפלייה מטעמים פסולים כגון דחיית מאמר משיקולים לא אקדמיים, אי הזמנה או ביטול הזמנה להשתתף בכנס או להרצות בכנס, סירוב להשתתף בכנס הנערך בישראל או בחסות מוסד ישראלי וכו', לדווח לפרופ' אשל בן-יעקב שלקח על עצמו לרכז את הנושא זה", כתב רקטור אוניברסיטת תל אביב לחברי הסגל.

המכתב שנשלח לסגל
המכתב שנשלח לסגל

בתחילת מכתבו הוא מציין כי נושא החרם האקדמי על ישראל אינו יורד מסדר היום, ומפרט יוזמות בעשור הקודם שהביאו לחרם על מוסדות וחוקרים ישראלים, כמו האיגוד המקצועי של חברי הסגל באנגליה.

רק לאחרונה דווח כי ההתאחדות האמריקנית ללימודי המזרח התיכון אישרה לחבריה להטיל חרם אקדמי על ישראל. מקרה זה הצטרף להחלטות נוספות ובהן יוזמה של 5,000 פרופסורים ומרצים מאיגוד הפרופסורים האמריקנים שהטילו חרם אקדמי על ישראל בסוף שנת 2013, וארגון המורים הארצי באירלנד שנענה לבקשת הרשות הפלסטינית ואישר לנקוט הצעד.

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